Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rape of Nanking

What the residents of Nanking had feared for weeks had come to fruition. In December of 1937 the unstoppable Japanese war machine mowed into the capital of the Chinese Republic committing some of the most repugnant atrocities the world had ever known: live burials, beheading contests, mutilation, violent rape, and other sadistic “games” that need not trouble you here. (I was hard pressed to find a photo that wasn’t too graphic and disturbing!) The Rape of Nanking left behind 300,000 victims, a destroyed city, and a demoralized nation that over seventy years later poisons relations between the two great East Asian powers. The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), overlapping with World War II, had its roots in an imperialist policy that took shape since the late 19th century. To this day Japanese officials and textbooks deny or downplay the horrific event that transpired during that fateful winter.

John Rabe, a member of the Nazi party, and an international Red Cross team (Germans, Brits, Dutch, Americans) set up a safety zone to try and protect Chinese civilians from their vicious persecutors. Thinking that his country, Japan's ally, could do something to stop the atrocities, he wrote a letter to the F├╝hrer, but Hitler would have none of that. I first read the details about this massacre in Iris Chang's highly readable best-selling book entitled The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Penguin Books, 1997). Sadly, she committed suicide in 2004 while researching a book on the Bataan Death March.